Applying the Rhetorical Square to Text

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Working with an article from The New York Times, SWBAT apply the skill of the rhetorical square in order to determine the writer's purpose, argument, audience, and persona.

Big Idea

Students unlock a skill to becoming better readers and better writers.

Connecting To The Text

10 minutes

Today my students will be applying their newly aquired skill of the rhetorical square to a piece of text, specifically to an article from The New York Times.  The article features the story of a father-daughter bond that is strengthened through shared reading.

The lesson begins with a brief writing assignment--What is your first memory with reading--where I ask my students to recount one of their earliest memories with reading.  I have reproduced the final paragraph of chapter two in Bad Boy ("Harlem"), where Walter Dean Myers recounts how he first learned to read.  I ask a student to read the paragraph out loud, and then share with them one of my own early memories with reading, a story of spilling water on one of my kindergarten readers that my teacher had let me take home, and how I was certain that I would be kicked out of kindergarten for the crime.  I find that if I can share my own examples of what I am asking my students to do, it tends to help my students get started more swiftly on the task.

I then instruct my students to spend the next seven or so minutes writing out one of their earliest memories with reading.  


Whole-Group Sharing

10 minutes

When my students have had enough time to write, I ask for volunteers to share their memories with the whole class. I try to allow for all who are willing to share to do so, but remain mindful of the time, so that we are able to progress to the skill application I have planned as the heart of the lesson.

Partners Get To Work

40 minutes

Once student volunteers have finished sharing their memories with the whole group,  I distribute a copy of the Reading Article--"A Father-Daughter Bond, Page By Page"-- to each student.  I explain that they will be reading the article with the same partners that they worked with in the previous lesson and then analyzing it through the process of the rhetorical square.

Before my students begin, I ask them as a whole group to name some of the writerly strategies that may occur in a text, referencing The House On Mango Street (since we have just completed an extensive unit on that text) in order to put some of those terms back into circulation.  Because my students have only applied the skill of the rhetorical square to visual advertisements thus far, I realize that they may need to be reminded of some of the strategies we explored in our first unit.

I give my student partnerships the option of reading the article aloud to each other or silently to themselves, with the instruction that they will develop one rhetorical square together.  Before they begin reading, I remind them of the mini-summary technique that they may want to use in the margins of the article, though on the grand scale of complexity, this article is very much on the lower end (Student Sample-Mini Summaries).

When my students finish reading the article, they then begin the process of analyzing the text through the skill of the rhetorical square.  Each partnership has been given a blank sheet of paper upon which to draw their square and I have projected a model of the square on the back wall as a reference, should they need it (Student Sample-Rhetorical Square).  As they work, I am able to circulate the room, fielding questions and offering suggestions whenever necessary.

Partnership to Partnership Checks for Understanding

10 minutes

If and when each partnership is finished, they are paired up with another partnership to perform peer-to-peer checks for understanding.  I encourage my students to give and take from each other at this stage, adding anything to their analysis that seems relevant and that may have been missed in their own partnerships.